Pig Farms Put "in a Spiral of Decline"

UK - The English pig industry is "in a spiral of decline", MPs were informed, because of a broken promise by the Government that farmers would not lose out from higher welfare standards.
calendar icon 14 October 2008
clock icon 3 minute read

According to evidence to the Efra Committee, an all-party watchdog on matters concerning the Department for Food Environment and Rural Affairs, the Government has made matters worse by failing to ensure its own departments buy British – and by multiplying paperwork.

John Godfrey, of Brigg, North Lincolnshire, told the committee that pollution management certificates for seven pig units had cost him nearly £6,000 each for the first year, in fees alone, and "if we had sent all the copies required by paper (some were sent by disc) we would have sent the Environment Agency 7,000 sheets of paper". He added: "It has cost us over 500 hours of management time."

Richard Longthorp, of Howden, said the retail price of pig products had risen 160p a kilo in 12 months but the price to the farmer had risen only 26p.

He commented: "The fact that Government and its agencies continue to procure pigmeat reared in conditions that would be illegal in the UK is an absolute disgrace."

The farmers made written submissions to the Efra Committee, which is in the course of a short inquiry into the pig industry. According to the Yorkshire Post, it heard a first day of oral evidence at Westminster yesterday, mainly from the producers, and will hold another in a fortnight, for the retailers and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

Farmers say the root of their problems was the decision to ban pig-rearing in individual stalls from 1999. Most of the rest of Europe has until 2013. The Danes and the Dutch produce some exports to UK standards and reckon the extra costs are at least 6p a kilo. The British farmers say they were promised they would get the extra back from concerned customers, but all kinds of food processors, like those making pies or ready-made meals, go for the cheapest options and so do most caterers, including the National Health Service. As a result, the market for UK pork has fallen 36 per cent since 1998.

However, the British Meat Processors Association has told the Efra Committee that home-grown pork is expensive even allowing for welfare laws. Production costs in 2006 were 17p a kilo more than Denmark's and 21p more than in the Netherlands.

Stewart Houston of Ripon, chairman of the National Pig Association, said yesterday that one big factor was the cost of disease and disease precautions. British pigs are currently suffering from a wasting syndrome which the farmers say took hold during movement restrictions in response to foot and mouth, swine fever and then foot and mouth again.

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